Weighing wealth in Clark County by zip code
Feb 25, 2013 (The Columbian - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
If your address ends with 98606, you're likely to be a member of the sandwich generation, contribute to PBS and carry a lot of insurance. And you're probably wealthy.
Live in 98660 You're just as likely to rent as own your home. You likely have young children, play video games and enjoy bicycling. But you probably don't have much money.
While downtown Vancouver's 98660 is the poorest ZIP code in Clark County and 90th out of 94 Portland-area ZIP codes, Brush Prairie-Hockinson's 98606 is the second-wealthiest in the metro area, according to data compiled by Esri, a California-based geographic-information system company.
"It doesn't surprise me as a resident here," said Rob Pearson, 39, president of the Greater Brush Prairie Neighborhood Association. "You see people with significant work accomplishment and successes. But being in conservative Clark County, you don't see the outward appearance of some of the financial success that is inherent in this area. You don't see the flashy things you might see in other parts of the country."
Leave that to Lake Oswego's 97034, which is the ZIP code that ranks No. 1 in the Portland area.
Esri developed "Dominant Tapestry Segment Codes" to classify neighborhoods in "65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics." Businesses buy Esri's research services to target their marketing efforts, but the company provides some demographic data free to news outlets such as The Columbian. The Portland Business Journal publishes the ZIP code rankings each year.
Home lots are large and pastoral in the Brush Prairie-Hockinson ZIP code, where the median home value is $332,599. The median household income is $91,371 and median net worth is $386,349. Esri labels these residents "Exurbanites" who enjoy "an affluent lifestyle in open spaces beyond the urban fringe." They consult financial planners, buy garden products, hire contractors, play golf and listen to PBS.
The 98660 ZIP code includes Vancouver's Lincoln, Carter Park, Esther Short, Hough and Fruit Valley neighborhoods, where houses are older and smaller.
The median household income in 98660 is $34,600, with a median net worth of $13,839. The median home value is $181,029. Esri labels these residents as "Aspiring Young Families."
"That's a great label," said Eric LaBrant, president of the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association. "It's tempting to look at a neighborhood with lower per-capita income and say that's the poor part of town, with all the labels that come with that."
To the contrary, he said, Fruit Valley offers a nice place to live for young families with tight budgets.
"I'm not rich, but here I'm able to have a home," said LaBrant, a 32-year-old single father. "If I were to go to a fancier part of town, so to speak, I could maybe get a studio apartment. We live a lot better here."
He's not sure if the rest of Esri's demographic profile fits. It says Aspiring Young Families "spend most of their discretionary income for baby and children's products, toys, home furnishings, cameras and video game systems. ... These residents would probably go to a theme park while on vacation. They eat out at family restaurants such as Chili's or IHOP and go to Jack in the Box or Sonic for fast food."
Of Clark County's 19 ZIP codes, Yacolt's 98675 landed in the middle, with a median income of $61,325, a median home value of $234,732, and a median net worth of $154,259. Esri labels these rural residents as the "Midland Crowd," a third of whom live in mobile homes. These residents are "politically active, conservative residents," according to Esri's profile. "Proficient do-it-yourselfers, they work on their vehicles, homes and gardens and keep everything in tip-top shape. They hunt, fish and do woodworking. Dogs are their favorite pets."
Whether or not you think the descriptions match Clark County's ZIP codes, don't read too much into the ranking.
"It's a lot of fun to look at -- I'm not sure if 'fun' is the right word -- but you need to know how good the numbers are," said Scott Bailey, state regional economist.
Most of the data on which Esri relies comes from the U.S. Census. But Esri's figures on net worth, defined as assets minus liabilities, are derived from the Federal Reserve Board's Surveys of Consumer Finance.
Those surveys are based on a very small national sample, Bailey said.
"It's quite a leap to take it down to the ZIP code level," Bailey said. "We have some surveys with a much larger sample that we don't even take down to the county level."
Erin Middlewood: 360-735-4516; http://www.twitter.com/emiddlewood; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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